Total Pageviews

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lesson learned

On my quest to self-publish, I have just learned a very valuable lesson. When hiring someone for cover art, ASK TO SEE SAMPLES FIRST. Just because someone works as a graphic designer (!) and his mother-in-law (a distant relative of mine) says he's good, means nothing.

I asked him for a picture of a pretty, slender, short-haired 16-year-old girl with wings. Even told him her hair and wings are gold, and her skin is Anglo tanned. I had done a couple of sketches (probably should have sent them to him) but the best you can say of my art is that I'm a decent amateur.

What I get is a gray-faced robot with a cape. I am not kidding. The skin on this creature was gray. Its flat yellow hair was in a pony tail. The torso was a featureless rectangle, the arms and legs rigid cylinders. The wings looked like a cape - there were no feathers, and absolutely zero understanding of the structure of a wing.

I thought it over for a few days - he wanted to be told what I wanted to change, and I couldn't think of a polite way to say "Everything." So I told him (having said earlier that my husband was in charge of the budget and would have to clear the $100 we'd agreed on) that my husband didn't think the art was worth a hundred, and I was sorry to say I agreed.

I never heard from the guy again. However, his mother-in-law (my mother's cousin, I don't know if that's once removed or what) Facebooked me that it was a shame I hadn't asked for samples first, so he wouldn't have wasted his time. I should have let it drop, but was so completely apalled by this dreadful, amateurish piece of art that I replied, "Didn't look like he wasted much time. I drew better than that when I was twelve." Well, she got angry - can't really blame her. I think she's unfriended me. I don't really care - I've only seen her a handful of times in my life and would be hard-pressed to pick her out of a crowd.

The moral of this tale is: When commissioning art, even if it's from friends or family, ask for samples first so you know if you're offering your hard-earned money for something you could do better yourself. And actually, better not to commission friends or family, or anyone you'll have to see again, because if you have to fire them, it'll ruin the relationship.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gee, I wish I could draw

Well, the cover art is going to be a holdup. I'm checking around all my assorted artistic relatives for starters, and I have plenty. The frustration I've always had with art is that I can see the picture in my head very clearly, but lack the ability to get it onto paper. And the cover is the primary advertising tool, so it can't look amateurish. I have an uncle, a couple of cousins, a niece, and a few friends who might be able to help. But oh, I wish I could do my own!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blasted printers

My husband printed out my novel for the editor. Would you believe we went through an entire new black cartridge, and then had to switch to blue? Eighteen bucks, and it wouldn't even print 350 pages! Highway robbery!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Little by little

Well, I've priced local editing services - yikes! Luckily I've got a network of local writers who also do editing, and one will give my stuff a look-see for free. I'll take advantage of that while I can. Phoenix Hatching is now in her hands. I've polished it to my best ability. Basically I just wanted a fresh pair of eyes to go over it and catch anything I missed. You can't proof your own work, you think it says what you wanted it to say. She can also check for any plot inconsistencies and other problems. While she's doing that, I'm checking into options for cover art. Here's an advantage over traditional publishing: you get to pick your cover art. You don't have to have Generic Chick in short top, tramp stamp, and sword. You can actually have someone who looks like the character.

After my editor's done, and I have the cover art chosen, then Phoenix Hatching will come out on Kindle. It's science fiction, set on Earth about 1000 years after the human race has become extinct. From underground labs, a race of beings called Mutas are beginning their own civilization. One of these is a 17-year old girl named Hallia. Abused by her own people, she exiles herself and is rescued by a scouting party from another group. As they travel across the deserted country, Hallia develops from a waif into a warrior. And she'll be needed once the group returns to its home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Here goes nothing

Actually, I hope that it all comes to a lot more than nothing. I've had enough of form rejection slips, query packets that come back unread because I used didn't use the font the editor prefers or put two spaces after a period, or had a 5-page synopsis instead of a 4-page. I am going to self-publish through, first in Kindle editions and then in print-on-demand, if possible.

To make a success of self-publishing, one has to put out a good product, and has to promote the bejeezus out of it, because no one else will. You can't just let it sit.

To that end, I'm going to be logging the process on my blog (poor neglected blog) and getting some cards printed up with the cover of this novel, once it's selected. I'm going to have it edited, so a fresh pair of eyes can maybe catch what I've missed. I want to work with an artist to design the cover. This will be one thing better than traditional publishing. Those authors have zero say over what the cover looks like.

So, watch this space. I'm going to blog the entire process. That will either inspire other writers, or serve as valuable lesson to other fools, whichever. The book in question is Phoenix Hatching, a science-fiction novel. I wrote the original version a very long time ago.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Very tired old plot that needs retired.

I’d like to gripe about a movie plot device that has gotten overused to the point that it’s beyond cliché. In fact, it makes a good portion of the movie that uses it so completely predictable that all suspense is gone. I’m calling it the Cassandra Syndrome.

Cassandra, for those of you whose education is either in progress or inadequate, was a woman in Homer’s Iliad who started off as a priestess of Apollo. He fell in lust with her and gave her the gift of prophecy. When she refused to have sex with him, he cursed her. Since even gods couldn’t take back gifts they’d given, the curse was that no one would ever believe her.

You’ve all seen these movies. They can be horror, sci fi, or action. Something is invented or discovered. Among the party of inventors or discoverers is a Cassandra who predicts dire consequences, which are laughed off by the person/s in charge, the main one I’ll call the Pooh-Pooh Bear. The invention is turned on, or the discovered item/creature is released. Dire consequences promptly come to pass. Big yawn. Is there anyone over the age of seven who hasn’t seen this plot a hundred times? Retire the sucker already! It doesn’t fool anyone! Are you listening, Science Fiction Channel?

You know you’ve seen it. This plot covers the main points of a gazillion cheap (and even not cheap) horror movies, science fiction, and action flicks. “Don’t let the thing out of the basement!” shrieks the Cassandra. “It’ll destroy us all!” Or maybe it’s “Don’t sequence the raptor DNA!” or “Don’t make the computer able to learn on its own!”

“But it’s the discovery/technological development of the millennium!” hollers the Pooh-Pooh Bear, and promptly lets it out, or turns it on without adequate testing, whereby it promptly destroys everyone. Except one or two of the heroes.

Ah, the heroes. These, too, remain the same from movie to movie with very few variations. Besides the Cassandra (who might be one of the heroes) and the Pooh-Pooh Bear, there’s the inevitable Main Character Trio. The Hot Chick, The Big Hero, and the Sidekick (these days, where Hollywood is trying to show how Politically Correct it is, frequently a Black Guy).

Inevitably, Hot Chick and Big Hero have a love affair going on, and Sidekick Black Guy gets killed off sometime during the movie. One notable exception was Deep Blue Sea, in which the Hot Chick bought it and the Black Guy lived. Way to throw us a curve ball, Hollywood. Yeah, change one plot element and pat yourself on the back about how Innovative you are.

Another example: Stealth. The special effects were amazing, I’ll give them that. However the first half of the movie was the same old Scary Discovery, Cassandra, Pooh-Pooh Bear, and Hero Trio. I was beyond not surprised when the Black Guy bought the farm and the Hot Chick and Big Hero (who was also the Cassandra) wound up together. The rest of the movie was good enough to almost make up for this, but not quite.

Can’t someone in Hollywood write something new? Sequels, remakes, filmed comic books and old plots rehashed with new special effects. Never mind you know everything that will happen in the movie, folks! Watch us blow shit up in new and exciting CG! Ooh, and now we have 3-D! At least for people with good eyesight. If you're blind in one eye or have other depth-perception issues, it just looks blurry.

Yawn. Pardon me, I think I’ll read a book.